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Looking past quarantine

Carter County Tourism Board discusses events after COVID-19

It’s been a strange summer for the Carter County Tourism Board and the businesses and events they support. Most of the county’s events, including the planned Fourth of July fireworks displays, have been cancelled. Only Tres Hermanos restaurant in Grayson is planning a fireworks display this year, according to the board. Hotel tax collections are also down as fewer people travel. Chris Perry at Carter Caves State Resort Park, for example, said accomodations at the lodge have been cut in half as they have to leave rooms vacant for a day before cleaning them and getting them ready for another guest to occupy to meet new park guidelines for cutting covid-19 risks.

But, despite all this, the park is ramping up for some summer activities. Bath facilities in the campground are being allowed to reopen, and the lodge will be allowed to return to 100 percent capacity after June 26. While the pool will likely remain closed a while longer, and equipment for the mini-golf course is not being rented, as the course isn’t technically “open”, mini-golf is still available for those who have their own golf clubs to bring along.

Perry said they are also hoping to get back in the caves after July 4, though with a different style of tour. What that will likely look like, he told tourism, is smaller groups and tour guides stationed throughout the caves to provide information, rather than large group tours. Instead of sending a large group every hour, he said the smaller groups will likely be staggered, and may be sent one every 15 minutes or so, so they can accommodate demand while still practicing social-distancing protocols.

At the other end of the county, Market 474 in Grayson is up and running, the outdoor setting being conducive to social-distancing. The organizers of the monthly event, on the second Saturday of each month, said with many festivals and events cancelled, participants in Market 474 have expressed gratitude they have somewhere to sell their goods. The next event in the series is set for July 11, but they are also looking at the possibility of organizing a second Market 474 event, to take place in the evening instead of the morning, perhaps with musical entertainment.

The tourism board also discussed the cancellation of county fairs, and how it might impact 4-H and livestock sales, and agreed to allow the fair board to use the tourism board’s movie screen if the fair board votes to use the fair ground property to organize a drive-in style movie event. While the drive-in movie experience hasn’t been approved yet, the tourism board has thrown their support behind it and agreed to help if the fair board moves forward.

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